Volunteer Spotlight: Christina Goddard
Christina Goddard has been volunteering with JFCS East Bay for the last 16 years. She began by bringing holiday meal deliveries to homebound older adults and Holocaust survivors, became involved in the holiday gift giving program, and decorated holiday cards and gift bags with her family.
Now, she’s the superstar volunteer who keeps our donated items organized and stocked – a task in high demand now that many generous donors have sprung into action to assist a surge of incoming Afghan refugees. Christina observes, “We’ve never had such a wealth of donations offered before.” In fact, JFCS East Bay has had to secure a second storage space. Items like extra bags of clean diapers can even be seen tucked above office cubicles.
“Things are overwhelming in a wonderful way.”
Christina also works to solicit donations for refugee families, making connections with people who list their household items online. “A lot of times,” Christina says, “people just don’t know how to get connected to a group like ours, and once I reach out, they’re delighted.” Christina acts as a conduit for donated goods to reach the families who can use them.
Once, when a family’s official U.S. contact was not able to set up their new apartment, Christina and some other JFCS East Bay volunteers jumped into action. “We went in, fixed up things, made some brownies, and put a welcome card on the kitchen table,” she recalls.
“I’m usually working in my own space trying to collect things like soap and toothbrushes, and seeing it come back to a real family moving in, it was the real-life culmination of all that work. It was very meaningful to me.”
As a first-generation American herself, Christina feels especially touched when she gets to meet families who are settling into life in a new country. “My parents immigrated from Germany and Holland, and they have their own story of coming to this country. They were sponsored by a stranger who wanted to do the right thing,” she says.
“Obviously, to leave your own country is such a dramatic, traumatic move. I can imagine their hopes and dreams for being in this country, similar to what my parents imagined, and I’m always hoping that it works out for them.”
Christina’s empathy extends especially to those who face discrimination under recent hateful political discourse. “I’m a blonde-haired, blue-eyed woman and no one questions my legitimacy to be in this country even though I’m a first-generation American,” she observes. “But for people who have a different color skin or accent, even if they’ve been here longer, their legitimacy to be in the U.S. will be questioned and that’s really offensive to me.”
Christina especially appreciates the openness and inclusivity of JFCS East Bay. “I come from a background where charities sometimes have this unspoken message of how you have to be a part of the religious group to get the assistance,” she says. “I’m so appreciative of JFCS East Bay’s openness to people of all cultures and religions. I appreciate that, in the tradition of Judaism, the desire to do good works and care for the refugee is regardless of whether these people are Jewish or not, and I really appreciate that. There are no strings attached, just acceptance.”
“This work brings together all sorts of people who just have a giving spirit and are looking to make a difference.”